Florida Lotto Jackpot Zooms to $94 Million Amid Ticket-Buying Frenzy
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Florida’s Lotto jackpot increased to $94 million Wednesday amid a ticket- buying frenzy fed by fantasies of fabulous wealth.
″It’s been crazy ... it’s really been insane,″ Lottery Secretary Marcia Mann said as she announced the nation’s fourth-largest lottery jackpot ever.
″We’ve been getting calls from Paris, Germany, Canada, and the whole United States wants to play,″ she said. ″But it’s still early in the week, the best is yet to come.″
If lottery ticket sales keep up Wednesday’s frenetic pace of about 500,000 an hour, or more than 8,000 per minute, the jackpot could hit the $100 million mark in time for Saturday night’s drawing, Mann said.
Ticket sales, which have amassed $17.4 million so far this week, are ahead of the pace that produced Florida’s all-time largest $106 million jackpot that six players won in September 1990.
″We probably won’t surpass the state record though, because they had more cash that had rolled over from the weeks before,″ said Mann, who was quick to add that ″anything’s possible.″
Sales were heaviest along the state line with Georgia and Alabama and around airports, where some retailers were reporting people flying in just to play the lottery.
″We had a guy fly in from New Jersey, catch a cab over here and buy 2,100 tickets,″ said Tommy Walts, a clerk at the Shelley Deli and Shell station near Tampa International Airport, the area’s top Lotto retailer.
″It took 105 minutes to roll out all those tickets. Then he got back in his cab and was gone to catch the next flight home,″ Walts said.
At Casey’s Liquors in Yulee, north of Jacksonville near the Georgia line, the store was jammed. ″It’s kind of a party atmosphere, real carnivally,″ said owner Chuck Casey, who has extended his hours and installed a second Lotto machine.
Lotto players had different fantasies about what they would do if their number came up; quitting their job was a common denominator.
″I’d probably just take my truck and throw it in the river,″ said Julio Giovinco, owner of an aluminum business.
″I wouldn’t be working for somebody, I tell you that,″ said advertising agent Hall Reddick. ″If I was working at all, I’d probably buy my boss out.″
The current grand prize started out as a $6 million prize a month ago. In successive weeks, it went to $13 million, then $25 million, and reached $50 million last Saturday’s game.
″We should have a winner this week,″ Mann said, adding there’s only a 1 percent chance the prize will roll over again.
California had the highest prize ever, a $118.8 million pot divided among 10 people in April 1991. Pennsylvania’s game generated the next-highest prize in April 1989, $115.57 million split by 14 people.